How Should We Think About Preserving Life vs. Stimulating the Economy?

Pastor J.D. explains why the seemingly obvious lives vs. livelihood answer is more complicated than we think.

A glimpse inside this episode:

  • When you phrase it, “Lives vs. livelihood” the answer seems obvious. But it’s more complicated than that.
  • To be honest, it’s really easy to say, “Let’s keep the economy closed for however long this takes,” while you’re sitting at home collecting a paycheck while there are so many people who are suddenly without an income.
  • But it’s not just rhetoric to point out that poverty also leads to death: poverty surges lead to increases in medical problems, other diseases, even suicide (hotlines are maxed).
    • According to a report in the New York Times, the World Food Program is warning that 130 million people may face starvation because the “national lockdowns and social distancing measures are drying up work and incomes” and may lead to a devastating disruption of “agricultural production and supply routes.”
    • 22 million people here in the US are jobless because of the shutdown (and counting).
    • And history tells us that even with slight increases in the unemployment rate, drug overdoses rise… Just imagine what a ~15% spike will do in just a few weeks!
  • Furthermore, we accept that there is certain amount of collateral damage with life:
    • Christian ethicists throughout history have recognized that some situations require nuanced ethical reflection. For example, collateral damage has always been accepted as an unfortunate byproduct of just war—to be avoided wherever possible but sometimes necessary in pursuit of higher ends. It’s easy to make a speech about how no objective in war is worth the sacrifice of a single innocent life in war, but we know that argument hasn’t held up in history.
    • Or, from another angle, automobiles take untold amounts of lives each year. We can say that no amount of efficiency that the automobile brings is worth the toll in human lives cars take, but we generally accept some collateral damage as the price of freedom and progress. We also recognize how much value speed in transportation adds to life, even saving lives, etc.
  • Of course, I’m not saying we should throw caution to the wind, and certainly not that we should sacrifice the old or vulnerable… We’re on lockdown and plan to remain so until our officials tell us is it ok.
  • Wisdom is found in balancing principles. I’m not an expert who can say what the right application is–but I can advocate for the principles. Many leaders neglect one.


The sponsor for this week’s episode:

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